‘Reflective obedience’ of Singaporeans demonstrated in ‘National Conversation’
Posted by temasektimes on September 21, 2012
A definition of conversation by wiki is: Conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette. Spontaneity can only be achieved by across segment of people; which means a statistical representation of the Singaporean population,which according to the last GE 2011, was 60.1% for the incumbent, and 39.9% in the opposition camp.
Lets face it, even in the US, friendly journalists are planted in a forum to ask the appropriate questions that the politician has a ready answer. Hence, controlling the audience by pre-selecting the participants to benefit the panelists is a trick that all politicians use. But in the US, you will at least have other journalists who will probe without fear, getting a difficult question across and anticipating these tricks, so that a greater revelation or truth can be ascertained. In Singapore, when all the official media are beholden in one way or another to the Government/including its Sovereign Funds, then biases are expected.
Now, I am a skeptic not a cynic, we try to arrive at conclusions through inquiry not suppositions or inherent propensity.
Even if the PAP has not explicitly told the myriad of workers (which in these case would be the top brass) of the need to be pro PAP, the very fact that 65% to 70% of our workforce can be linked directly or indirectly to GLCs, and given its incumbency over a period of 55 years, the tendency is for the workers to practice “reflexive obedience”, which is to favor the PAP.
The words, “reflexive obedience”, can be understood from a report on Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear disaster: “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.”
Just in case you think this is just a cultural specific issue, let me give you snippets of the wikileaks about press control in Singapore:
*Chua Chin Hon, was reported as saying that reporters had to be careful in their coverage of local news, as Singapore’s leaders were “likely come down hard” on anyone who reported negatively about the government or its leadership.
*He recounted how several ministers at the time routinely called editors to ensure that media coverage of an issue “comes out the way they want it.” Getting “tough with the media” was one way in which younger ministers tried to boost their credentials with the old guard, he added.
On one hand this shows the paternalistic control by the Government and on the other hand, the pandering to cater to their political masters by the bureaucrats, whether or not it is good for Singapore. Other examples: (1) as the above article shows, a controlled audience ,who are friendly to PAP’s governance, will they reveal Singapore’s discords and social divide, or are they merely there to give platitudes? (2) as reported, the organisers (CCC of Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng) of the Mid Autumn Festival, pushed children of primary school age to rehearse in the open road without closing it to traffic, forcing the parents and teachers to form a human barricade against incoming traffic.
The real danger is that our civil service like the managers of Fukushima Nuclear Plant, forget that their first duty is to protect the citizens and civilians, not to cover the asses of their political bosses.If you want a National Conversation, please do it with a certain robustness of adversarial content, it need not be rude, but it can be to the point and vigorous.
I wish that the national conversation will succeed. God knows we need it. We are not anti PAP, we are pro-Singapore. Dont confuse the two.